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 Received : 11/21/09  Dr. David CLARKE   
 
 

Martin's report is a model of how retrospective 'cold case' investigation should be conducted and how, in some cases this can lead some hitherto unexplained UFOs to become IFOs.

The study demonstrates: (a) that there is indeed valuable material of interest to scientists lurking within the mass of noise that surrounds the UFO data, despite the dismissive attitude of CONDON and others and (b) there is a lesson to be learned by UFOlogists, e.g. that it is possible to resolve even the most troublesome UFO reports as novel or unusual phenomena - natural as opposed to supernatural or extraterrestrial - through objective investigation with a completely open mind to all possibilities. Martin has demonstrated this both in his fine work on this case and the Channel Islands incident (which remains unresolved).

David CLARKE
Sheffield, UK

[Dr. David CLARKE is author of several books on different aspects of supernatural belief and tradition, including volumes on UFOs, ghosts and angels. He is a regular contributor to the BBC History Magazine and to Fortean Times where he writes a monthly column ("Flyingsaucery") with Andy Roberts. CLARKE teaches journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and folklore at Sheffield University. His Ph.D in Folklore was taken at Sheffield's Centre for English Cultural Tradition. CLARKE's permanent employment is as a Lecturer in Journalism and Public Relations in the Department of Media Studies, Sheffield Hallam University.

Alongside journalism, Dr. CLARKE contributed to a range of radio and television productions dealing with folklore and unexplained phenomena. In 2009 he became consultant to the British National Archives for the release of the Ministry Of Defence's UFO files (see also http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ufos/). CLARKE's own blogspot is at: http://drdavidclarke.blogspot.com/]


Our reply :

David CLARKE's positive note on the BOAC Labrador sighting was actually a response to an announcement of Martin's article posted by Herbert TAYLOR on the PROJECT-1947 list, a web forum that groups researchers interested in the historical aspects of UAP research.

The complete report on the "Channel Islands incident" which David refers to can be downloaded at: www.guernsey.uk-ufo.org.

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 Received : 11/23/09  Don LEDGER   
 
 

High altitude balloons of that day were not of the size and volume of those sent aloft in the present. The envelopes of the helium filled "Skyhook" type balloons were not as strong back then. The seams of the mylar could not be bonded as well as they are now so to get the volume of helium needed to get these balloons to a level where they would expand to hundreds of feet in diameter at altitudes of 75,000 to 100,000 feet while supporting heavy payloads. In 1954 it was more likely that the balloons would get to about 100 feet in diameter at 75,000 feet and certainly well below that expansion at 14,000 to 19,000 feet.

Since this subject came up in another case some years ago I had discovered specs for the helium balloons [the US military WS-119L (128TT)] of that period (1953-54-55) and that these balloons did not exceed 128 feet in diameter at 100,000 feet. Assuming a size of perhaps 70-80 feet across at 19,000 feet the distance now becomes a factor where acuity is concerned and hardly the arresting phenomenon the flight crew observed.

Don LEDGER
Nova Scotia, Canada

[Don LEDGER is a pilot and a well-known UFO researcher. He authored two books on UFOs and one on the investigation of a 1998 airliner crash off the coast of Novia Scotia that killed 229 people.]

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 Received : 11/23/09  Jenny RANDLES   
 
 

This is indeed a splendid case history and exactly the way forward for future research into specific high strangeness cases.

An opportunity to be built upon and not squandered.

It has always seemed likely that this was some UAP and an unusual mirage has, of course, been in the frame since the Condon analysis 40 years ago.

But this new report puts the questions into the spotlight very well.

When I wrote Something in the Air [a book that reports on "more than a hundred mid-air encounters between civil and military aircraft and something else that was flying unidentified within our atmosphere", published by Robert Hale & Co. Inc., Washington, in 1999 - WVU] I devoted quite a few pages to this case based on the interviews with the air crew that we had just done for Strange But True? [Strange but True? Was a British documentary television series about the supernatural, broadcast in the UK on ITV between 1993 and 1997 - WVU]. One thing I added worth repeating here is that there was a case that was reported to MUFORA [the now defunct Manchester UFO Research Association - WVU] in 1975 that had interesting similarities and might have insights to offer.

It occurred just before Christmas 1974 (sadly no exact date was recalled) at 7:30 a.m. Location above Werneth Low near Oldham in the Pennines.

As in the Goose Bay case it involved a shape changing dark mass (oval that became sausage like) with a blunted end. The female witness described several small objects coming from the sausage as "like soap bubbles being blown from a hoop".

The event comes across as a form of optical distortion of some source and matches the Goose Bay case surprisingly well (the woman lived in an isolated cottage and appeared unaware of the sighting then 20 years earlier).

I also note the link with sunset (at Goose Bay) and sun rise (at Werneth Low) that might be relevant to the theory.

There are going to be other cases like this and I will do a search to have a look.

The BA Trident case in 1976 [see Appendix C (Case #6) - WVU]was also investigated by MUFORA (indeed we got access to the same radar system that also tracked the object). The conclusion that was reached (with help from Philip TAYLOR who sourced a possible trigger for the sighting) relates to the setting of the radar system that in weather mapping mode could only have shown something truly huge (probably mountains) and was not directly related to the sausage shaped objects and crinkle foil mass seen. (The radar and optical observations had no direct link in time and space I should stress).

Evidence about part of the optical sightings matched a high altitude research balloon that was plotted using weather records to be in the area. The sausage shapes might indeed be the same phenomenon as in these two cases above given again the timing (near sunset).

I think something of a pattern might be emerging here to assist the search for other possible candidates. Which I will look for.

Jenny RANDLES
Buxton, North Wales, UK

[Trained as a science teacher, specialising in geology, Jenny Randles would later become the UK's most popular UFO writer. On gaining her diploma in Media Communications at Manchester University, she became a full-time writer and researcher into strange phenomena. Since 1979 RANDLES published nearly 50 books, more than half of which on UFOs. Her titles have been sold to 27 countries.

Articles by Jenny RANDLES have appeared in such journals as New Scientist and OMNI. Like David CLARKE, she too is a regular contributor to Fortean Times.]


Martin SHOUGH replies :

The link with sunset (at Goose Bay) and sun rise (at Werneth Low) is definitely relevant in the mirage mechanism I discussed for the Goose Bay case, as explained in the article. For one very important thing, much of the duct must be in the Earth's shadow to preserve image contrast and give these high-density "black" silhouettes. There are many factors that need to be considered, though, and without knowing more about the Werneth Low sighting I wouldn't want to connect them yet. But it's certainly one to follow up.

A search for additional cases is indeed welcomed. The collection of cases in Appendix C was conceived as the kernel of a possibly growing catalogue. To focus on the signature features of the pattern it would be useful to discuss some of the cases in more detail.

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 Received : 11/24/09  Graham HUBBARD   
 
 

An intriguing report, but what I found really astonishing is that apparently not one of the fifty-odd people and crew on board had a camera with them!? I've not yet read the report in detail but the only reference to a photo that I can find is the statement in Chapter 3 that:

"...There are several other oddities worth noting in the Project Blue Book file. On one typed sheet a brief reference is made to study of a photograph. There is no explanation..."

Graham HUBBARD
Perth, Australia


Martin SHOUGH replies :

An interesting point, Graham. Of course this was 1954. Society was not flooded with cameras in the way it is today. Nevertheless half a century of popular photography had placed at least a Kodak "Box Brownie" in many - perhaps even most - moderately affluent households. 35mm cameras were widespread. Edwin LAND's first Polaroids had been on the market for about 6 years.

This was also not an economy flight, but a luxury flight for well-heeled travellers, some of whom were employees of BOAC. One might intuitively expect that the probable rate of camera possession per passenger mile would have been greater on this flight than most. The aircrew had space, relative comfort and excellent visibility on the flight deck.

There is the counter-argument that affluent frequent flyers might be less likely to sit with cameras easily accessible in hand luggage since the novelty of flight has worn off for them and they may be focused on business or, in some cases, so jaded that even the "champagne and caviar run" is merely an opportunity for sleep. Some of the passengers were reportedly asleep, and there is no reason to believe that all of them were witnesses.

It is also possible that passenger photographs do exist. These people were not by and large reached by journalists. I'm aware of only one passenger account recorded in a contemporary local newspaper. The focus was firmly on the crew of the Stratocruiser, and in particular Capt. HOWARD. And some witnesses may well have preferred not to be publicly associated with photos of what even Capt. HOWARD was averring must have been an "intelligently controlled machine" - i.e., a flying saucer.

Nevertheless, the incident was front page news around the world. The press and BBC TV and cinema newsreels generally treated it seriously. It remained a prominent case for decades, having I think a slightly special status for the twin reasons that Capt. HOWARD and his crew were so highly respectable and that there was always the feeling that the objects might have been some sort of rare and unexplainable yet natural phenomenon. This of course was the conclusion of the influential CONDON Report in 1969. If any passenger photos do exist it is somewhat surprising that in five decades no rumour of one has emerged.

So, one lesson that should be drawn from this case - a lesson which ought to help calibrate our expectation in similar circumstances - is that in 1954 a genuinely unusual phenomenon could be observed at leisure for many minutes by perhaps tens of affluent, generally (and technically) educated witnesses, having at least an average percentage of camera-ownership, without even one photograph being taken.

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 Received : 11/24/09  Jenny RANDLES   
 
 

I actually addressed this point in Something in the Air [see Jenny's message of 11/23/09 - WVU] as it was one of the things we asked the air crew about when we did our interviews in the mid 90s because it occurred to me as a worthy question.

The answers we got and the conclusions I derived from them pretty well concur with your thoughts.

I quote:

As was common in those early days of commercial air travel the passengers (there were only 29 of them - JR) were not tourists but businessmen and this explains why none were eagerly filming the phenomenon through windows as many no doubt would be doing today.

Stewardess Daphne O'REILLY (ne WEBSTER) told us that most of the passengers on the port side were viewing the thing and asking her what it was from very early. She had no answers and went to the cockpit to try to get them an answer. Indeed it was the stir by the passengers viewing it that first caused her to look and see it for herself. Some light hearted comments about Martians had developed by this stage as so she decided to act but the crew were as mystified as the passengers.

The navigator (McDONNELL) DID recall that one passenger subsequently said he had taken movie film of the event but James HOWARD told us he seriously doubted this had occurred as the footage would, he felt, have surfaced during the then intervening 40 years.

However, given how the matter was investigated in the immediate aftermath it is worth pondering whether such evidence would have been retained by any passenger.

Remember this was a UK flight over Canadian territory and landing now in Canada but as they landed they were greeted by several people who introduced themselves as intelligence officers with the USAF. Although they briefly spoke with all the crew they quickly separated the captain (HOWARD) and the first officer (BOYD) and took them to a debriefing room.

McDONNELL told us that there were both USAF and Canadian personnel leading the two men away and after they were returned to the group HOWARD and BOYD were pretty circumspect about discussing the matter further. Although they did confirm they had been given a 'grilling'.

Howard was not unwilling to tell us about the debriefing. He said the USAF were fairly blasé about the matter suggesting these sort of things occurred pretty regularly and advised that there had been several recent sightings in the same area,

Of course, you need to square such matter of fact commonplaceness with the response by the USAF.

McDONNELL added that as he waited during the debriefing of HOWARD and BOYD USAF intelligence officers came and took away his flight logs and he was a bit unsure over jurisdiction but complied. He had never known this to happen before or since in any other flight whilst he was with BOAC.

Meantime, as the above occurred, chief flight attendant Daphne O'REILLY (WEBSTER) was asked to serve as a go between with the passengers and the USAF. They were told nothing specific about the events or why US Air force personnel were investigating. She advised about the USAF; "They glossed it over with the passengers". She and the other crew not being debriefed also had to help fill in a "long questionnaire",

So there might be speculation that at some point in this fairly lengthy USAF investigation immediately after the event IF there was a passenger that had taken film then it might have been procured by the USAF. Although the lack of interest in the passengers by the USAF mitigates against that.

Howard told us that he found it strange that the USAF were on hand to follow up so rapidly and he suspected that the lengthy holding pattern they were put in just prior to the sighting (somewhere south of Boston) might be relevant.

This was very unusual at the time when there was little traffic and flights had their routes set out very meticulously and such a long delay was serious to their flight schedule.

Later, after the publicity for the case, HOWARD had been contacted by a doctor who was camping with his wife in the same area of Massachussetts that Seirra Charlie had been prevented from flying into during the hold. They had both seen a phenomenon akin to the one the air crew described and making a humming/buzzing noise.

On landing at London the next day (quite late due to the extended layover for the USAF investigation) Howard alone was called to the Air Ministry for a UK debriefing , He had spent much of the Atlantic crossing compiling notes and sketches.

Although when they next flew together some weeks later to India McDONNELL asked HOWARD what the Air Ministry had said about the Goose Bay matter he had reportedly replied "You know the score".

However, all three confirmed that they had been put under no pressure from BOAC not to talk.

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 Received : 11/24/09  Peter BROOKESMITH   
 
 

For what it's worth, Charles BOWEN's account of the case in The Unexplained [page 7; also in The UFO Casebook (Orbis, 1984), page 9] had it that there was only one passenger on board with a camera handy, but he was asleep during the sighting. A few pints of champagne and ladlesful of caviare will do that for you, of course. I don't know what sources Charles based his account on; FSR [Flying Saucer Review - WVU] goes back only to 1955.

Peter BROOKESMITH
Wales, UK

["Peter Brookesmith is writer and publisher.

At different times in his life he has been - among a range of other activities - an advertising copywriter, putative literary critic and musicologist (his D. Phil thesis was on folk and rock music), editor of and consultant on highly illustrated more-or-less non-fiction publishing projects, record producer and occasional songwriter, publishing manager, designer of combat-oriented firearms training courses, and author of a somewhat eclectic collection of books that just pass muster as non-fiction. He has twice harangued the Oxford Union (Britain's second oldest University Union) on the non-existence of flying saucers and aliens in our midst, and lectured at various other gatherings on matters ranging from conspiracy theories to the blues (credit goes to en.wikipedia.org for most of the foregoing particulars).

Like David CLARKE and Jenny RANDLES, Peter too is a regular contributor to Fortean Times. About half a dozen of Peter's books are on UFOs.]

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 Received : 12/09/09  Joel CARPENTER   
 
 

Brilliant, brilliant work on the case! I can't tell you how much I admire that kind of research thoroughness. I don't know if you are interested, but there's a photo of the Centaurus in the Flight International files: www.flightglobal.com .

In thinking about the solution, I wondered -- could it be possible that what was seen was actually the 'shadows' of distant clouds projected toward the airliner and distorted by mirages? (www.stormeffects.com)

Joel CARPENTER
USA

[Joel CARPENTER is a long-time American researcher with a special interest in photographic and historical aspects of UAP reports. As an avid collector of documentation and photographs on aircraft, spacecraft and missiles, Joel developed a particular interest in the relationship between post WW II experimental aerospace projects and the 'UFO' phenomenon. He holds degrees in history and industrial design and is the author of In the Dark : Secret Weapons, UFOs and the USAF published by Tab Books (Blue Ridge Summit, PA, 1995).]


Our reply (Martin SHOUGH + Wim VAN UTRECHT)

Many thanks! Much appreciated. And the Flight article is fascinating, a real insight into the practicalities of aviation in those days - like the half-joke about providing umbrellas for the crew because "as with all airliners" it rains in the cockpit when frozen condensation thaws during descent! Great stuff and some nice photos.

Actually we found photos of the very plane, G-ALSC Centaurus, and of the cockpit interior of a Stratocruiser (see examples below).

BOAC-Centaurus
Stratocruiser-cockpit Top: 'G-ALSC Centaurus' at Heathrow in the late 40s.

Left: Stratocruiser cockpit interior.

[Images borrowed from
b377.ovi.ch/articles/speedbird.]

As for the interesting cloud shadows idea: I don't think so because shadows of remote clouds projected on (presumably) an intervening haze could not have the optical contrast required. The target clouds in the mirage theory must be circa 400 miles away to keep relative afterward displacement (relative to the plane) down to an acceptable small figure.

The same would apply to projected cloud shadows: the haze on which the target shadow image is being projected must itself be this far away. (In fact the parallax problem is slightly worsened because as the sun sets it is moving somewhat North below the horizon - to the right - in the same sense as the aircraft and therefore tending if anything to throw cloud shadows increasingly towards the left.) I think cloud silhouettes are a better fit in this case.

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